He loves to speak in Persian, but when he starts speaking quickly, he changes to English. Polite, quiet and unassuming, Mehrdad Beitashour, who is a defender in the Iranian national football team, was born in the U.S. to an Iranian family. He was callled up to play for the U.S national team three years, but now, he is getting ready to play for Iran in the World Cup. Playing in the World Cup was his childhood dream, Beitashour says, a dream that could come true very soon. Though he’s not sure he’ll be picked for the team’s main line-up, he is confident Iran is in good shape and have a chance to put on an impressive performance while in Brazil. IranWire talked to Mehrdad Beitashour about his hopes for the Iranian team during the World Cup and what it’s been like for him to play football in the U.S.
Football (or soccer) is not a very popular sport in the U.S. How did you became interested in the sport?
I have been interested in playing football since I was a child. I played football when I was in school, but when I went to college it became more serious. In 2010, I signed a contract with the San Jose Earthquakes and played my first professional game against Chicago Fire. I play defense. The same year I scored my first goal against the team Chivas USA and I was invited to an MLS All-Star Game and played against Chelsea. Our team won the match 3-2. Now I play for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
A year later you were invited to the American national team but you did not play. Why?
Yes, 2011 was one of my best years. I played well for the club team. American national team officials wanted me to play for them and in 2011 [head coach] Jurgen Klinsmann invited me to the national team’s camp. But I did not get to play; the head coach decided to send other players to the field. In all teams, it is the head coach who decides. I was invited to play for the American national team again but I was injured at the time and could not go.
How familiar were you with Iranian football before you were invited to the national team?
I was born in the U.S. but my parents were born in Iran. I grew up with Iranian culture and traditions. I have watched [Iranian footballers] Azizi, Daei and Mahdavi-Kia play. The first time that I played in Iran, cheering from the Iranian fans in the stadium made me ecstatic so I am really very happy that I am playing for the Iranian nation team. I have wanted to play in the World Cup since I was a child. It’ the biggest event in the football world and the world’s best players are there.
Iran’s Group, Group F, includes some tough teams and strong players, including Argentina and some of its stars. Are you worried?
In the World Cup, everybody plays well. Fortunately we are in good shape and we will try our best to play well.
What condition is the team in?
The team is in good shape. We had good training camps and the players are ready. Queiroz [Iran’s head coach team] plans well and the discipline in the team is good.
Do you think Iran will get to the second round?
It will be hard work. Nigeria, Argentina and Bosnia are strong teams. But football is unpredictable. We will try to play well and I hope we will put on a good show.